Kevin Durant’s title on Instagram is Easy Money Sniper. He’s one of many nice shooters for his measurement the NBA has ever seen, a 6-foot-10 unicorn. Four occasions, he’s led the league in scoring.
Offense is his calling card. But within the Nets’ opening-round collection, his protection shall be important, too.
In his first playoff collection as a Net, Durant shall be requested to spend time defending Jayson Tatum, the Celtics’ All-Star forward coming off a 50-point explosion in Tuesday’s play-in spherical victory over Washington.
“I know how tough it’s going to be out there,” Durant mentioned after observe Wednesday, “and I’m looking forward to that challenge.”
The greatest likelihood the seventh-seeded Celtics have of beautiful the second-seeded Nets is Tatum carrying them. Durant shall be seeking to at the very least sluggish him down — no straightforward task.
The 6-foot-8 Tatum averaged a career-best 26.4 factors this yr on 45.9 % taking pictures. He improved as a playmaker, notching 4.3 assists, and torched Brooklyn for 38 factors on April 23 and 31 on March 11. Durant, nevertheless, didn’t play in both sport, each Nets victories. In the primary assembly between the groups on Christmas Day, Tatum struggled from the sphere, taking pictures 9 of twenty-two and scored 20 factors. Durant was on the ground that day.
He prides himself on not being a one-way participant, and plans to additional illustrate that towards the Celtics. It’s extra than simply limiting Tatum. It’s about assist protection and supporting the opposite Nets on the ground.
“I think that’s the most important thing is I want my teammates to know I’m there for them,” mentioned Durant, who averaged 1.3 blocks this yr, the third-highest output of his 13-year profession. “I want them to trust me out there on the defensive side of the ball, and I think that’s most of it for me.”
It received’t be straightforward. Tatum is without doubt one of the vivid younger stars within the league, and placing Durant on Tatum may backfire. Durant may get in foul hassle. He could put on down. It would possibly take away some of his potency on the offensive finish.
“That’s a part of playoff basketball. You’ve got to play both ends of the floor and you’re gonna expend a lot of energy,” Nets coach Steve Nash mentioned. “But that’s why Kevin trains the way he does and that’s why he’s the player he is. He can impact the game at both ends at the highest level. He’ll have a lot of possessions where he’s guarding Tatum and he’s gonna have to work hard to slow him down and so is everyone else who gets matched up with him.”
Durant agreed with Nash. He’s not it like he should sacrifice something. He plans to play arduous at each ends of the ground and doesn’t see the task of guarding Tatum as taking away what he can present on the offensive finish.
Defense, in fact, is the massive query with the Nets. They are arguably the premier offensive group within the league, a unit that was first in offensive score, and includes a gifted trio in Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving that’s the most gifted threesome within the NBA. Defensively, although, they have been twenty second in defensive effectivity.
The Nets have mentioned the significance of the defensive finish in current days, the should be centered and devoted to that finish of the ground for all 48 minutes beginning Saturday night time. No slip-ups. No lapses. Offense, Harden mentioned, will maintain itself.
“We have to bring several things — obviously, scoring is not one of them — but our defensive mindset, that has to happen like every single possession of games,” Harden mentioned. “And if we can get that — the faster we can get that — it’s going to be pretty tough for teams to beat us. Because, defensively, if we can get stops, offensively, we score so efficiently that you can’t catch up to us.”
It will begin with Durant. For as soon as, offense is probably not his most essential contribution.